March 13, 2017

TAX WHAT YOU DON'T WANT:

Self-Driving Cars Can't Cure Traffic, but Economics Can (Conor Dougherty, MARCH 8, 2017, NY Times)

[L]ondon, Singapore and Stockholm have all put in such systems effectively.

In the United States, the most common objection is that road pricing is regressive: Rich people get to drive alone while the masses huddle on a bus. Also, people just don't like paying for things that they are used to having free.

Economists are hoping that may change. Several states, including California, Texas and Minnesota, have added high-occupancy toll lanes with different pricing during rush hours.

"This idea of congestion pricing is not completely dismissed the way it once was," said Clifford Winston, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Winston said the eventual introduction of self-driving cars would probably lessen consumer opposition to paying more to use roads during peak periods. Ride-hailing apps have taught consumers to accept surge pricing, and people are generally less resistant to paying for something new. The result would be something like variably priced lanes dedicated to fleets of robot vehicles.

If that happens, one of the hidden benefits of this revolutionary new technology will be that it got people to accept an idea that economists started talking about at least a century ago. And you get home a half-hour earlier.

Posted by at March 13, 2017 6:09 PM

  

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